January 26, 2004

Nova Scotia suspends land application of sludges pending review completion

The Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour has suspended all land application of sewage and septage sludges until a review of the approval process for this activity is completed.

The department has stopped issuing new approvals, and current approval holders are being contacted and advised that they may not apply sludges until further notice. The decision should have no short-term consequences for approval holders. All current approvals forbid the land application of sludges when the ground is frozen.

In releasing further details of the review, Environment and Labour Minister Kerry Morash said it is intended to ensure that Nova Scotia's policy reflects best practices. "There are many benefits to using these sludges to enhance agricultural land, but it's also understandable that people could have concerns about their safety," he said. "So we'll impose a time out to make sure that it's the right choice."

Septage sludge is the solid material remaining after dewatering of sediments pumped from a septic tank, while sewage sludge is the final residue from sewage treatment plant processes. The review, which began last fall, will be completed by May 1 and will lead to a recommendation to Cabinet. It includes assessment of standards used for approving land application of sludges; consideration of alternatives to land application and discussions with concerned groups. Municipal governments, septic tank pumpers, and the agricultural community will be among those invited to submit comments.

Morash also announced the launch of public consultation on Toward a Sustainable Environment, a framework document released in June 2003 (ELW July 14-21, 2003). Known as Nova Scotia's Green Plan, the document sets out more than 60 environmental protection initiatives, based on three underlying principles which will guide the province's environmental management policies.

The principles state that environmental protection is essential to human health; that environmental management must balance environmental, social and economic concerns; and that environmental management is a shared responsibility involving all Nova Scotians.

The initiatives flowing from these principles include commitments to pollution prevention programs, creating a regulatory climate that encourages development of renewable energy industries and adopting environmentally responsible purchasing standards.

"We're taking a balanced, co-ordinated approach to maintaining a healthy environment," Morash said. "The views of the public and stakeholders will help us be more effective as we implement our environmental protection goals and objectives."

Comments may be submitted through a Web site, www.gov.ns.ca/greenweb, which includes a consultation workbook. Those who wish to submit their comments in writing should call 1-800-567-7544. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, March 31, 2004.

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